PIA VPN Review 2022: Too Cheap to Be Good?

What do we look at?

🚀Speed 8.0 / 10
📍Servers 10 / 10
👍User Experience 9.0 / 10
📞Support 10 / 10
🏷️Pricing 10 / 10
Disclosures:
Our Reviews

WizCase includes reviews written by our experts. They evaluate the products/services in accordance with their professional standards.

Ownership

Kape Technologies PLC, the parent company of Wizcase, owns ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, ZenMate, Private Internet Access, and Intego, which may be reviewed on this website.

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Wizcase contains reviews that were written by our experts and follow the strict reviewing standards, including ethical standards, that we have adopted. Such standards require that each review will be based on an independent, honest and professional examination of the reviewer. That being said, we may earn a commission when a user completes an action using our links, which will however not affect the review but might affect the rankings. The latter are determined on the basis of customer satisfaction of previous sales and compensation received.

Reviews standards

The reviews published on Wizcase are written by experts that examine the products according to our strict reviewing standards. Such standards ensure that each review is based on the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, and takes into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings we publish may take into consideration the affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website.

Private Internet Access Overview September 2022

Private Internet Access is a popular VPN with affordable prices and a large user base. However, with the VPN market being more competitive than ever, is PIA still a leading provider or a service you can do without?

I wanted to know if its bargain pricing comes at the sacrifice of good performance, so I thoroughly tested its speed, security, privacy, and more. The result? PIA may be budget-friendly, but it’s also an outstanding VPN! There are some things that PIA can improve on, but as a whole, I came away more impressed than anything else.

As a cautious VPN user, PIA’s US headquarters may give you pause. However, PIA states that it has a solid no-logs policy and keeps customer data safe with secure server infrastructure and anonymous payment methods.

Read on to discover all my test results, or check PIA out for yourself risk-free by signing up with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not fully satisfied, you can request a full refund at any time within 30 days of purchase.

Try PIA risk-free!

In a Rush? Here’s a 1-Minute Summary

PIA Unblocks Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu, (but Can’t Access BBC iPlayer)

Although PIA doesn’t heavily advertise its ability to unblock streaming platforms, it’s surprisingly effective at doing so. This includes the most popular platforms like Netflix or Disney+ and more local services like UKTV or Australia’s 9Now. PIA also offers a selection of “streaming optimized” servers for certain locations, which my colleagues and I tested out and can confirm that they provided the most reliable results.

Netflix Disney+ HBO Max Amazon Prime Video Hulu Kodi
Crunchyroll US BBC iPlayer YouTube CBC Eurosport FranceTV
Canal+ ZDF ARD Hotstar India RaiPlay YLE
Ruutu C More MTV Finland HBO Nordic Cmore SE TV4Play

Netflix: Unblocked

All of PIA’s US-based servers were able to unblock Netflix. I was happy to find that PIA provided speeds fast enough for watching in up to 4K with minimal buffering on local servers. More distant servers worked in full HD with slightly longer buffering (up to 25 seconds at the longest).

Screenshot of PIA streaming The Irishman on Netflix
I was pleased with the streaming quality on Netflix while connected to PIA

My colleagues and I tested several different servers worldwide to see if we could access content on Netflix US and other libraries through my subscription while abroad. We were easily able to access US content, as well as Canada, the UK, Italy, Japan, and more.

You can see a chart below of the servers that worked, plus those that offer optimized locations for streaming.

Country Optimized Netflix Server?
Italy
Sweden
Finland
Japan
UK
US – East
US – West
Australia
Canada
France
Germany

Disney+: Unblocked

I was pleased to find out that PIA unblocked Disney+ with ease during my tests. Several other VPNs I’ve tested have struggled to unblock Disney+, as the media giant has some of the strongest geoblocks, but with PIA I could access my account and stream The Mandalorian within a few seconds.

I was thrilled that PIA unblocked Disney+ so I could watch The Mandalorian

HBO Max: Unblocked

PIA is one of the few streaming services that reliably unblocks HBO Max, giving you access to its library of movies and exclusive TV shows. My US-based colleagues watched popular shows, like Game of Thrones and The Righteous Gemstones, in full HD using PIA’s fast connection speeds.

PIA easily accessed HBO Max in HD and streamed with fast speeds

Amazon Prime Video: Unblocked

I was surprised to find out that PIA easily unblocked Amazon Prime Video during my tests. Even though many VPNs can’t get around Amazon Prime Video’s restrictions, PIA managed, and I could watch The Boys on my Prime Video account.

PIA can access Amazon Prime Video in 4K without a problem.

Kodi: Unblocked

I had no issues with any of the servers I tested in conjunction with Kodi. There’s no need for optimized servers here since there’s no centralized location to unblock. Lots of Kodi content is P2P-based, so the main issue is simply replacing your IP address with another for security’s sake.

Still, I tested Kodi with various European PIA servers and streamed content with the Popcornflix add-on with minimal buffering and good speeds.

Hulu: Unblocked

Although several sites have reported that PIA can’t unblock Hulu, my US-based colleague found this to be untrue. The US streaming-optimized servers (both East and West) worked on the first connection attempt. Palm Springs streamed with no buffering and the quality was HD immediately.

PIA was able to unblock Hulu and stream Palm Springs in HD

BBC iPlayer, DAZN, and More: Blocked

Unfortunately, I couldn’t access BBC iPlayer, even while using the UK streaming-optimized server. I ran into the same issue with DAZN and Channel 4.

Screenshot of PIA failing to unblock the BBC iPlayer.
BBC iPlayer was one of the most popular services that PIA was unable to unblock
Overall, I was left very impressed by the breadth of the available services compared to what I was expecting.

Speed8.0

Is PIA Fast? It’s Fast Enough for HD Streaming and Gaming

I wanted to make sure I got a good understanding of PIA’s speeds around the world, so I connected to several different servers and used different protocols to get an idea of its performance.

I was happy to see that I had an average speed of about 200Mbps using OpenVPN, and overall low latency with local servers. With WireGuard this fell to around 150Mbps, which surprised me given that it’s supposed to be a faster protocol. Overall, my speeds with local servers remained more than high enough for even up to 4K streaming. There were larger drops when I connected to servers outside of my country, but that is pretty normal.

Internet speed tests with PIA VPN connected to servers in the UK, the US, Australia, and Germany.
PIA’s speeds were good enough for all of my online activities

Speed Test Results

All of my baseline speed tests were run on a Windows 10 PC (my average baseline speed is around 550 Mbps). To check the change in speed when connecting multiple devices, I simply added additional devices like phones, tablets, PCs, and smart home devices like my Fire Stick. I then connected to Ookla’s speed test and ran multiple speed tests to find an average speed.

There are a few things in particular that I pay attention to when measuring the performance of a VPN server:

  1. Download speed — The overall most crucial metric that you want to score highly.
  2. Ping (latency) — This tracks the time it takes for a local command to reach the server and get back to your device. Ideally, this should be as low as possible, especially for online gaming.
  3. Dropoff from base speed — Since my speeds will be quite different from yours, I tracked the overall change from my baseline speed so you can see how PIA servers affect performance.
Chart showing various speeds of PIA VPN servers from around the world.
PIA’s speeds were impressive with nearby servers but dropped off harshly at a distance

Local Servers vs Distant Servers

Since you’ll likely want to use your VPN to connect to some far-off servers, it’s important to check how performance holds up. Unsurprisingly, PIA’s local servers are multitudes faster than its distant servers, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t usable.

When I chose PIA’s automatic server selection tool it immediately connected me to a Spanish server, which was spot on since this is where I’m based. The difference between my baseline speed and VPN speed was quite large. But in reality, a speed of over 320Mbps is fantastic and more than capable of handling anything from high-resolution streaming to large downloads.

Although the slowdowns were noticeable in terms of percentages, the speeds I got were still good enough for most of my online activities.

Server Location Base speed (without a VPN) Download speed % Difference from base speed Ping Distance from the actual location
US 558Mbps 38.65Mbps -93% 155 7,000 km
UK 558Mbps 285.95Mbps -49% 40 1,100 km
Australia 558Mbps 14.79Mbps -98% 293 14,000 km
Germany 558Mbps 192.78Mbps -66% 38 1,000 km

The Sydney server is by far the farthest from me at 14,000 km away, so it’s no surprise that it was the slowest. The Chicago server in the US also only achieved a small fraction of my base speeds. However, the speeds on both servers were fast enough to stream in HD without any lag or buffering.

Because Germany and the UK are relatively close to my location, those servers had the best speeds. The percentage change was bigger than I would prefer but because my connection is already really fast, I’m happy with the actual speeds. Of course, these results will change based on your location and the base speed of your internet, so I recommend you test PIA’s speeds for yourself. If you’re unhappy for any reason, you can use its 30 day money-back guarantee and get a full refund.

Are PIA’s Speeds Fast Enough for Gaming? Yes!

After seeing its decent speed results, I wanted to know if PIA works well while gaming. I always chose the preferred server (Auto) and had consistently high speeds and low ping while playing games. Ping (latency) is the most important thing to look out for — the lower it is, the faster your inputs are being sent to the game server and back, giving you a lag-free experience.

I tested this out by playing a few games, including Splitgate and Rocket League. Both are fast-paced online games where every millisecond counts, so a laggy VPN connection just wouldn’t work.

Screenshot of PIA connected to a Poland server while playing Splitgate.
I played Splitgate without lag while connected to PIA’s preferred server
I found that the local server that PIA connected me to had a ping of just 8ms, which is actually equal to my ping without a connection active! Even more distant servers like Brussels or London, both with a ping of around 40ms, were perfectly fine for gaming.

Why Most Speed Tests are Pointless & How We Correctly Test VPN Speeds

Speed determines how fast content uploads, so if you're torrenting or streaming, you want the speed to be somewhat identical to your regular internet speed. Since a VPN encrypts your data, it usually takes a bit longer to send your data back and forth, which can slow down your connection. However, if your ISP deliberately slows down your connection (also known as throttling) a VPN might increase your internet speed. Testing a VPN is somewhat pointless because new servers pop up and affect speed. Your speed can also differ according to your location, so your speed test might not match ours. Having said that, we tested the speed in numerous locations to provide you with the average.

Servers10

Large Server Network (35000 Servers in 84 Countries)

PIA has over 35000 servers worldwide in more than 84 different countries, giving it one of the largest server networks among premium VPNs. I was impressed that it owns all its servers hosted in third-party data centers worldwide. In fact, PIA has the highest average number of servers per country of all premium VPNs — the latest figures I’ve seen have it at well over 400 servers per country! In contrast, most other VPNs have under 100 per country.

I was excited to see that PIA has recently added servers with IP addresses for all 50 states in the US. This means that you won’t have any difficulties accessing a website that’s only available in a certain state. It’s also great because you’ll never miss any sporting events when you’re travelling — and you can even catch TV premiers before all your friends when you use a server on the east coast!

In addition to physical servers, PIA uses virtual servers that allow you to route your connection using a geolocated server elsewhere without leaking your information. You can find them with the globe logo on desktop and mobile. This way, you can get a UK IP address even though your connection is routed through a physical server elsewhere.

I ran several leak tests to ensure that it couldn’t detect the physical server location. So, even though I was routed through physical servers in another country, my tests revealed no DNS leaks. This proves that PIA will hide your actual location with reliable encryption. It also has virtual servers in restrictive locations — such as China, Turkey, Brazil, and Hong Kong.

Screenshot of PIA desktop client and android program, showing the geolocated servers
PIA has a wide variety of servers to give you more options to unblock global content

Although there is an option to use a proxy to hide the fact you’re using a VPN, PIA doesn’t offer any obfuscated servers. These are great when you want to connect to a VPN without letting anyone (like your ISP or government) know that you’re using a VPN. This doesn’t matter In most countries, but in countries where VPN usage is frowned upon or illegal, obfuscation is a must-have. If you need a VPN with this technology, ExpressVPN is one of the few services that offer obfuscated servers, which makes it one of the best VPNs for bypassing internet censorship.

When testing the default server (Auto), the server that PIA chose for me was consistently the same and had the highest speeds and lowest latency. I generally had speeds of around 300Mbps, which was plenty for all my online activity. If you want to pick a specific server location, PIA’s desktop interface shows the current latency on a given server. So you can select the fastest one in the region you’re interested in. If you want to run your own tests, you can try PIA’s network for yourself risk-free as it’s backed by a 30 day money-back guarantee, so it’s easy for you to get a refund if you’re not satisfied.

Is PIA Good for Torrenting and P2P? Yes, and No-Logs Keeps Your Data Safe!

PIA offers all the things you need to torrent: fast uploading speeds, unlimited bandwidth, port-forwarding capabilities, and a strict no-logs policy. During my testing, I was able to torrent speedily without any restrictions and was pleased to find that P2P traffic is supported on all servers. Although the auto-select feature always connected me to the fastest server at all times, you can handily see which has the lowest latency from the UI.

To check how PIA’s servers handle torrenting, I successfully downloaded a 2.5 GB file in just 9 minutes.

Screenshot of a torrent download while connected to PIA's Poland server.
I was impressed by PIA’s fast download speeds

PIA is one of the few VPNs to offer port forwarding to improve your P2P speeds within its app. It selects a port automatically for you, which is prominently displayed so you can easily insert it into your torrent program settings. Technically speaking, this allows you to bypass NAT firewalls and connect to more of your torrent’s peers for higher download speeds.

The kill switch ensures that your unmasked IP address is immediately hidden if your connection drops. This is especially useful for activities like torrenting.

While waiting for my torrent to download, I ran some leak tests and was glad to see that no leaks were detected. That said, it’s essential to remember that a VPN doesn’t give you a license to commit illegal acts — especially since PIA is under US jurisdiction. This makes it a less-than-ideal place for anyone who wants to download copyrighted materials. Although the chances of anything happening are low, it’s best to ensure your downloads are copyright-free.

Does PIA Work in China? It Might With a Few Steps Before You Travel

The PIA support team informed me that PIA belongs to the group of VPNs blocked in China but offered some workarounds. They suggested first connecting via the WireGuard protocol, and if that didn’t work, then try the OpenVPN protocol’s native app.

A live chat agent directed me to an article on PIA’s knowledge base that guided me through how to set up OpenVPN with my subscription to work in China. Keep in mind that using a non-approved VPN provider in China is illegal. That said, there are no reports of tourists or foreigners on business trips getting in trouble for using one while in the country.

If you don’t want to install a separate app or deal with complicated settings, my team and I have tested these VPNs that are guaranteed to work when you travel to China.

Security Features

Military-Grade Encryption — Powerful Encryption as Standard

PIA uses some of the highest and most customizable VPN encryption settings on the market. You can choose which level of security is suitable for your needs by changing your VPN protocol and data encryption strength.

For example, you can choose between AES 128- and 256-bit encryption. In practice, both levels of encryption are currently considered highly secure. PIA used to offer more OpenVPN settings such as encryption handshakes and authentication but removed these for compatibility issues and smoother updates.

Screenshot of PIA's connection settings on Windows.
PIA’s interface makes it easy to change all encryption settings

PIA also supports the Perfect Forward Secrecy encryption method that works to protect future data exchange. This method prevents reliance on a single private key during data exchange. Instead, each session’s private key is unique. So, even if a hacker breaks one key, they can’t use it to decrypt any past (or future) data.

Security Protocols — Strong Choices, but Selection Could Be More Extensive

PIA allows you to choose between OpenVPN, currently the most common security protocol, and WireGuard. iOS is slightly different, as it also offers IPsec. You can select which VPN protocol you’d like to use in the Connections tab. WireGuard is seen as the faster protocol in terms of potential speeds and connection time, but I didn’t notice much difference in my tests.

You can also manually configure your devices with PIA using OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, and SOCKS5 proxy. This is useful when you can’t install or even download the native PIA app on a device.

You can always add an extra hop to your VPN’s security by going through a Shadowsocks proxy in your settings. During my tests, I used the France Server via the Switzerland Shadowsocks proxy to give me an additional hop to route my internet traffic through two locations simultaneously. This granted me an extra layer of security but won’t be necessary for most people.

Split Tunneling — Easy Setup, but Not Available on iOS

I was impressed with PIA’s split tunneling feature while testing it. It allowed me to designate which apps pass through the encrypted tunnel and which continue normally. This way, I could safely torrent on qBittorrent with a PIA server while leaving my online gaming unencrypted to maintain a faster connection. You can easily turn this feature on from the “Network” tab in the Settings menu.

Note that split tunneling is called “Per App Settings” on Android and isn’t available on iOS. However, it functions well on Windows, Macs, and Android.

Kill Switch — Reliable Protection on All Operating Systems

You can find PIA’s kill switch across all main operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. It being on iOS is particularly good news since many VPNs don’t offer this feature.

During my tests, I was happy to see how effective PIA’s kill switch is. My internet access was immediately disconnected when my VPN connection suddenly stopped. This way, my real IP address was never compromised. This feature is also easily customizable. You can either set it to “off,” “auto,” or “always.” If your connection to a server drops, “auto” only automatically blocks traffic while PIA is running, while “always” will block your traffic even if PIA isn’t running.

Built-in Leak Protection — No Leaks Detected

I was pleased to see that PIA has strong leak protection. To ensure PIA’s servers are truly airtight, I ran several extended DNS leak tests on different servers, including both the virtual and geolocated servers. The results were consistent with the server locations, so I knew my IP was actually hidden.

Screenshot of a successful PIA leak test.
Every time I tested PIA for DNS leaks, I never found a compromised connection

PIA protects against numerous types of leaks, from IPv4 to IPv6 and DNS leaks. Be aware that this is enabled by default on Macs but has to be manually turned on for Windows.

Extra Features

Dedicated IP Addresses

For a small fee, PIA offers dedicated IP addresses. Because many people use the same IP addresses, websites will likely recognize that you’re connecting via a VPN. This can lead to them showing you frequent CAPTCHAs, slowing you down, and generally annoying you. It’s also much more likely you’ll run into issues with streaming since streaming services attempt to track VPN IP addresses and block them.

A dedicated IP address is yours alone, so you won’t run into any of these problems. It also makes securing your WiFi network much easier as you can block all IPs except your dedicated IP.

Command-line VPN Control

PIA’s desktop apps include “piactl,” a capable command-line tool geared towards more advanced users. While the regular user interface has limitations and can only be automated in a few basic ways, you can set up command-line tasks to execute under specific circumstances or times. You could set it up to connect to a server 5 minutes after you turn on your device, for instance, or create a shortcut that first connects to a specific location and then opens up a specific app.

Screenshot of connecting to PIA through Windows command line.
I was surprised I didn’t need to access the GUI to connect to PIA

Although this sounds a little complex, it’s quite a lot easier to set up than I first thought. PIA offers documentation on all the available commands, although I found that some of the more complex ones are better left to the pros.

Automation

If you prefer not to use command line stuff, you can set up some basic automation within the regular desktop app. This only extends to automatically connecting when you connect to a protected, unsecured, or wired connection. Still, it can be useful to protect yourself automatically while traveling and on public networks.

SOCKS5 and Shadowsocks Proxies

Although PIA doesn’t offer obfuscated servers, it does have an option to obfuscate your connection. In the settings, you can activate multi-hop and use the Shadowsocks or SOCKS5 proxy to add an unencrypted proxy location before your VPN connection. This is particularly useful in countries where VPN use is restricted but not illegal, as proxy traffic is generally not blocked in the same way.

Proxies are different from VPN connections, being less secure (no encryption) and more detectable. Because of this, I prefer to use the Shadowsocks proxy. The app automatically chooses the fastest proxy location. Then, once it’s enabled, all you have to do is choose which VPN server you want to use and connect as usual.

The SOCKS5 proxy has a few more steps to connect, but if you don’t need a VPN connection — it’s easy to use once it’s set up.

Privacy Features

No-Logs Policy — Tested and Passed

I chatted with customer support about PIA’s no-logs policy and was assured that they do not keep any logs. I was pointed to a transparency report showing subpoenas and court orders requesting user logs. These real-life cases have proven PIA’s lack of logs. In two separate instances, in 2015 and 2017, the US government requested logs for an investigation, but PIA had nothing to hand over to them.

The only information PIA keeps on file is a record of your email address and payment method, as stated in its privacy policy. For extra caution, you can create an email strictly for signing up for PIA and use an anonymous payment method.

Located in the USA — An Unfortunate Location but Good Reputation

A concern for some is PIA’s location in the US. The company presents this as positive, claiming the US has strong data retention and privacy laws. However, the US is a central member of the 5, 9, and 14 Eyes — powerful groups of countries that routinely share intelligence. Ultimately, it comes down to whether PIA can be trusted not to store any sensitive data in its logs. Fortunately, evidence shows that PIA is indeed a trustworthy, no-logs VPN.

MACE Ad Blocker — Above and Beyond for a VPN Ad Blocker

My team and I have tested many ad blockers that come bundled with VPNs, and the vast majority are far from great. Fortunately, PIA’s MACE is surprisingly good at blocking ads. I put it to the test across multiple ad-heavy websites (like Forbes and the LA Times) and didn’t encounter a single ad — not even those annoying videos that autoplay when you open a website.

Besides ads, MACE also maintains a database of servers hosting malware and trackers and intercepts them before they can load. This combination helped me feel safe when I visited sketchy streaming websites that would normally bombard me with pop-up ads and all sorts of tracking attempts.

It’s worth mentioning that MACE is a basic on/off offering, with no additional settings or whitelists to be changed. This is quite different from many other dedicated ad blockers that have extensive options to be catered to your needs. However, for most people who simply want to block known ads and malware, MACE should do the job just fine.

Screenshot of PIA's MACE feature removing ads on a website.
PIA’s MACE feature effectively removed all ads during my tests

MACE is available on Windows, Mac, and Android, but not iOS. Note that the native Play Store version on Android doesn’t include MACE — instead, you’ll have to download the .apk from the PIA website.

Server Locations

Australia
Austria
Belgium
Brazil
Canada
Czech Republic
Denmark
Finland
France
Germany
Hong Kong
Hungary
India
Ireland
Israel
See all supported locations...

User Experience9.0

PIA supports many popular devices, although not as extensively as some other major VPNs. While CyberGhost offers native apps across many devices such as the Fire Stick, PIA would have to be sideloaded there to function. Although this isn’t very difficult, it’s a less user-friendly process and will stop plenty of people from using it there. You can see the main natively supported devices here:

Computer Mobile Router Firmware
Windows iOS DD-WRT
Mac Android Tomato
Linux Merlin
Pfsense
OpenWRT/LEDE

Native Apps for Windows and Mac — User-Friendly and Useful

I’m a big fan of PIA’s Windows and Mac apps. They have great user interfaces, which can be expanded to reveal plenty of detailed connectivity information, or collapsed to keep things simple. Finding the right server is easy since you’re shown them in order of latency, so you can quickly choose the current fastest one for your location. Although there are no dedicated server categories, you will find some “streaming optimized” servers amongst the regular server locations. I also like being able to favorite my most-used servers so they’re easily accessible from the Quick Connect menu.

Settings are also easy to find and make sense of, with simple descriptions next to every option so you immediately know what you’re changing. It’s a good balance of some powerful connectivity options, combined with simpler functionality like turning on the kill switch or switching between the light and dark themes.

You can install PIA on Windows devices running Windows 8.1, and 10 (32 or 64-bit), and macOS (64-bit only) running 10.13 or newer. I do wish that PIA would release an app for Macs with M1 chips, but most VPNs don’t yet so this isn’t surprising.

Dedicated Apps for Android and iOS — Slicks Apps with Some Subtle Differences

The key features between PIA’s desktop and mobile apps are mostly the same, but there are a few differences. The most notable distinction between them is the lack of split tunneling on iOS, but this is true for many VPNs. iOS is also missing the MACE ad and malware blocking feature, which was replaced with Safari Content Blocker due to a conflict with Apple. Unfortunately, this tool doesn’t block ads system-wide like MACE, and you’re out of luck if you use a browser other than Safari.

On the other hand, iOS offers the most protocol choices of all PIA apps (OpenVPN, IPsec, and WireGuard). It also offers a Network Management section where you can tag specific WiFi networks as trusted or not — useful for connecting or disconnecting to PIA based on your location. Siri is also integrated so you can simply give voice commands to connect or disconnect.

PIA will run on the following versions:

  • Android 5.0 or newer (mobile devices only)
  • iOS 11 or newer (only 64-bit devices)

During testing, I found that PIA had no trackers installed on its Android app. I used Exodus to scan the PIA Android app to see if it collected any usage data. I was pleased to find no records of such activity, further confirming PIA’s lack of trackers and logging. Several other popular VPNs, like NordVPN, are known to include multiple trackers in their mobile apps (realistically just harmless usage data but the less of this, the better).

A screenshot of the Exodus tool, which shows there are no trackers installed on PIA's software
I was happy to see that Exodus didn’t find any trackers on PIA’s application

InBrowser — Free Browser App With Excellent Privacy Features

PIA has also created a free dedicated private browser for Android and iOS called InBrowser. If you use it and then close the browser, it will clear all data and history created during that session. This is great if you want to browse sensitive or adult content, or if a family member or friend temporarily wants to log into one of their accounts on your device.

You can also activate TOR mode so all traffic is routed through the TOR network for additional privacy and encryption. There are no ads or trackers included with the app (which would seem counterintuitive in any case).

Screenshot of PIA's InBrowser app for Android
PIA’s InBrowser is helpful for browsing with its added privacy features

I was pleasantly surprised by InBrowser’s speed and simplicity, as well as the fact that it didn’t seem to have issues loading any type of content. In some other private browsers I’ve used there have been problems loading videos, so that’s a definite plus. One thing that stood out to me was how aggressive the app was by default.

On Android, simply clicking the button to show all background apps led to InBrowser immediately shutting down and wiping all browsing data. However, you can change the settings to allow it to run in the background for a set amount of time instead. The iOS app works the opposite way. You have to manually enable automatic data wiping, and you have the option to have the app remind you to clear your data if you forget.

Browser Extensions — A Surprisingly Strong Offering

With PIA’s browser extensions you can connect to a VPN server from within your Chrome, Firefox, or Opera browser without applying the connection to your whole device. This will ensure that your browser’s traffic is encrypted and anonymized, which can be useful in situations when you can’t install the VPN to a particular device but still want to be protected while browsing.

PIA currently supports the following browsers:

  • Chrome v48 or newer
  • Firefox v57 or newer
  • Opera v52 or newer
Screenshot of PIA VPN's browser extension settings.
PIA offers some useful and unexpected browser extension settings

There are an impressive number of features here for a browser extension, which in my experience are generally very limited in comparison to their desktop and mobile cousins. You can block third-party cookies and trackers, as well as access to your camera, microphone, and location data. I’m also a fan of the options to block WebRTC IP detection (to prevent leaks) and force the use of HTTPS across websites to keep your data encrypted. Overall, these extensions are a solid addition to PIA’s app library.

Other Platforms Supported — Linux and Routers

Although Linux users will likely have some ability to use the command line, PIA is actually one of the few VPNs that doesn’t require you to make use of them. It offers a full graphical user interface for you to interact with, change settings, and connect to servers. Of course, you still have the option to use the command line and having this choice is simply a great addition to the Linux app.

PIA supports the following Linux distros (64-bit and desktop versions only):

  • Ubuntu 18.04 or newer
  • Mint 19 or newer
  • Arch
  • Debian

There’s a major benefit to installing PIA on your router rather than on every device — you can connect an unlimited number of devices to a single router and all devices will be protected. This is great for conserving the number of simultaneous device connections that PIA offers (up to 10). The downside is that you have to choose a location for your router to be connected to and at times, it won’t be the one that you want for a specific device.

PIA supports the following router firmware:

  • DD-WRT
  • Tomato
  • Merlin
  • Pfsense
  • OpenWRT/LEDE
  • OpenVPN-compatible routers

Support10

PIA has a robust knowledge base, email support, and live chat, but its Twitter support has poor feedback. However, I found the knowledge base had helpful information, and both live chat and email support worked well for me.

Tested: 24/7 Live Chat

Each time I started a support chat, I rarely had to wait more than a minute before getting connected to an agent. During the testing process, I connected to live chat support at least 15 times and didn’t have to wait more than 1 minute a single time. Support agents were always friendly, but their knowledge varied a lot depending on the complexity of the question (which didn’t get particularly complex).

You can contact PIA support 24/7 through live chat, although it’s only available in English. I’m a huge fan of the fact that you can connect to a customer support agent without having to enter any details at all, or needing an active subscription like many other VPNs. This makes it infinitely easier to get the help you need or simply inquire about things before you decide to subscribe.

Tested: Email Support

To test PIA’s email support, I created multiple support tickets and sent several emails for different inquiries. The results were overall very positive, with fast responses (always within 24 hours) and more detail included than I’d seen in the live chat replies. Importantly, I sent some initial requests from non-customer email addresses and still received quick responses.

In some cases, I was even surprised that I received more detailed answers than when I asked the same questions via live chat, as you can see in the image below.

Screenshot of a reply from PIA VPN email support.
PIA’s email support response time was faster than I expected

Tested: Twitter Support

PIA support via Twitter worked fine but wasn’t as fast as I expected for the medium. I tweeted @PIACSM and sent a DM enquiring about its browser extension but didn’t get any response until 20 hours later. I expected a significantly faster response time for this channel compared to email but it was about the same. If this is the standard, it makes it somewhat irrelevant as a support channel, although having a public platform to voice your complaints is always useful.

Online Knowledge Base

During my interaction with the live chat support channel, I was directed to several pages in PIA’s knowledge base. I was impressed with the information in some of the articles, covering many general and more technical aspects of using all PIA apps. The forums on PIA’s website and Reddit were filled with a ton of information about PIA’s features and troubleshooting tips. The VPN even has representatives on the Reddit forum and its knowledge base community to provide accurate information and answer questions.

How We Test Customer Support and Why Should You Care

We personally test the customer support team of every VPN we review. This means asking technical question through the live chat feature (where applicable) and measuring the response time for email questions. Whether you need to connect to a specific server, change your security protocol, or configure a VPN on your router, finding a VPN with quality customer support should be important to you.

Pricing10

Payment Methods — Multiple Card and Anonymous Payment Options

Private Internet Access has a variety of unique payment methods, including:

  1. Credit Cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover)
  2. PayPal
  3. Amazon Pay
  4. Cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, and the BitPay platform)
  5. Popular retail gift cards (Starbucks, The Home Depot, Walmart, and more)

The option to pay with a gift card is great since it’s a fairly anonymous way to pay for your PIA membership compared to using your regular bank card. To access this feature, you have to go to a special page for gift card trades and choose which retailer’s gift cards you want to trade in. You can also use cryptocurrencies for more anonymity when paying, although these are mostly pseudonymous and not completely anonymous (depending on how you acquired them).

If you want to get the most features for your money, PIA’s 2-year subscription is currently the best deal. It also comes with a 1-year subscription to Boxcryptor, a cloud encryption service that protects your Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and other cloud storage platforms on an unlimited amount of devices.

Money-Back Guarantee

You can try PIA risk-free and test its features with its 30-day money-back guarantee. When I tested it, all I had to do was reach out to PIA’s customer support through live chat. I told the agent that I wanted to cancel my account, and they asked if there was anything they could do to troubleshoot. I explained that I didn’t need the service anymore and wanted a refund.

You should note that the agent needed my invoice number to confirm my identity to cancel my account. Without me asking, the agent sent my original invoice to the email I signed up with, which was very useful to prevent me from having to dig it out myself. After I provided this number, the agent processed my request in seconds, and I got a refund in 4 days.

screenshot of PIA customer service chat while requesting a refund.
I appreciated how accommodating PIA’s customer service team was while handling my cancellation request

One of the unique features of PIA’s refund policy is that you can take advantage of it every 3 months — albeit with a new account.

screenshot of PIA's refund policy
I was surprised to see that I could use PIA’s refund more than once

This information is listed in its Terms of Service under the Refund category.

Private Internet Access offers the following plans

Final Verdict

For the price you pay, PIA simply has a whole lot to offer. With highly affordable plans and a huge amount of features, it may seem that Private Internet Access must be cutting corners somewhere to offer a service this good. However, after testing PIA for a few weeks, I can safely say that these worries are unfounded. I’m a big fan of its approachable user interface across all platforms, customizable security features, and quality-of-life additions like its powerful ad blocker, split tunneling, and command-line functionality.

On the other hand, some users may find PIA’s headquarters in the US a red flag, no matter how convincing its approach towards no-logs is. Additionally, its ability to function from within China (and other restrictive nations) is slightly hit-or-miss, which will be a deal-breaker for some. I was also surprised by how harshly its speeds dipped on more distant servers in comparison to many other premium VPNs I’ve tested.

If you make frequent use of long-distance servers, you may want to make use of the money-back period before locking it in. Fortunately, it’s risk-free — you can try out PIA for yourself with the 30-day money-back guarantee without making a commitment.

Try PIA risk-free!

FAQs About PIA

Is Private Internet Access any good?

Yes, PIA is pretty good! PIA offers some of the most robust security features on the market, including AES 256-bit encryption, WireGuard protocols, and a working kill switch. It also has a wide range of customizable features and I can recommend it for many applications.

I was particularly impressed with PIA’s unique ad blocker that eliminates ads on even the most congested websites. It has two protocol options that let you prioritize speed or security. While it may not be the quickest VPN out there, PIA provides speeds fast enough for 4K streaming or heavy downloading, and low latency servers for gaming. You can even utilize it on up to 10 simultaneous devices at once, which is at the higher end for premium VPNs like this.

Another often underappreciated feature is its range of anonymous payment methods which make PIA one of the best monthly VPNs out there. You can keep your identity private by paying with gift cards from major retailers (like Starbucks or Walmart) or using cryptocurrencies such as BTC or ETH.

Can I get PIA for free?

You can’t get it for free, but you can try out PIA risk-free with its money-back guarantee for 30 days. While you’ll have to pay upfront for your subscription, you can ask for a refund as long as you cancel before the end of the trial period.

Getting a refund is super easy. All you have to do is reach out to an agent on the 24/7 live chat and tell them that you want to cancel your account. If they ask you how they can keep your business, just tell them that you don’t need the service anymore, and they’ll process your refund quickly.

I generally don’t recommend free VPNs as they generally have fewer options, limited data allowances, and smaller amounts of servers to choose from. That said, I’ve found that there are a few decent truly free VPNs out there.

Is PIA safe?

PIA is one of the safest VPNs available, with military-grade encryption, a kill switch that prevents data leaks, and the latest WireGuard protocol. Its airtight servers ensured that I didn’t experience any leaks during my tests and thanks to its MACE blocker, I was able to block potentially malicious ads and trackers.

Another thing that assured me of PIA’s trustworthiness was that it couldn’t provide any logs even when pressured by authorities in a criminal investigation. This is coupled with regular transparency reports that prove its 100% commitment to users’ safety.

Does PIA work with Netflix?

Yes, PIA works with Netflix in multiple regions. I personally tested it and got it working with libraries from the US, UK, Germany, Japan, and more. I was especially happy with the performance with nearby servers (Europe in my case), which had almost no noticeable increase in buffering versus if I wasn’t connected to PIA. I experienced some longer buffering with Japan and Australia, but this is to be expected with servers over 15,000km from me.

Does PIA work in China?

Possibly, but it requires some workarounds and a little luck. You can first try connecting via the WireGuard protocol and if that doesn’t work, try with the OpenVPN protocol’s native app (you should set this up before you arrive in China to avoid any blocks).

PIA also doesn’t run any obfuscated servers that would hide your VPN usage from the Chinese government, but you can set up a Shadowsocks proxy that functions similarly. Shadowsocks works great in countries where VPNs are blocked, however, I haven’t been able to test it in China.

Does PIA block ads?

Yes, by turning on PIA’s MACE feature you can effectively block many of the ads you encounter online. PIA has built (and continues to add to) a database of ad, malware, and tracker servers, and actively blocks them before they can reach your device. Note that this feature is only available on Windows, Mac, and Android — unfortunately, Apple forced PIA to remove it from the iOS version.

Important to know

United States
2009
No
10
30 days guaranteed
windows mac linux android ios router

Contact Details

helpdesk@privateinternetaccess.com
www.PrivateInternetAccess.com

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